A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

In "Un Chien Andalou," is a real eyeball being sliced?

October 2, 2001

Dear Straight Dope:

In a high-school painting class we watched a live-action short film made by Dali (don't remember date or title) that showed what looked like a human eye being cut open with a razor. After the movie, some of my more squeamish classmates wanted to know if someone cut a real eye for the sake of art. One student (a Dali admirer) suspected that they used a real eye, but I don't know where she got her information. I'm curious to know whether I witnessed an eye being destroyed or just some eye-catching (no pun intended) effects. Any ideas?

It was indeed a real eyeball, although not human. What actually got sliced was a calf's eye, substituted for the woman's eye the camera initially focuses on. The scene definitely makes you want to short any stock you may have in the Acme Straight Razor Co.

The film was entitled Un Chien Andalou and was created by surrealists Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali in 1928. It's a short film, only 16 minutes long, but those 16 minutes contain some of the most bizarre images ever put on film. (And I'm including Hannibal!) We have the aforementioned eyeball-slicing scene, a scene of a man dragging a grand piano on which are piled dead donkeys, a hand crawling with ants, two living statues as seen from the torso up. To today's sophisticated film-watcher it all seems to point to some hidden meaning. But don't try to look for any real meaning in the film. It's purposely not there. When Buñuel and Dali met in Paris in the late 1920s and decided to make a film, their express purpose was that "no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted." So we have a series of images and quick-cuts with no relation to each other. Even the title (translation : "An Andalusian Dog") is devoid of any meaning in relation to the film. As Buñuel said, "We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why."

If there is any point to the film beyond the shock value, maybe it's in our all too human attempts to find meaning where there is none.

Some stills from the film, including the eye-slicing scene, can be seen online at www.wayney.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/ uca.htm. This page also has a link to a movie clip of the scene.

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